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Groundbreaking new drug may reduce heart attack risk

Wednesday 30th August 2017
Anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab is being hailed as groundbreaking among heart doctors. Image: Dr_Microbe via iStock
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A groundbreaking anti-inflammatory drug that could help to dramatically lower a person's heart attack risk is being hailed by doctors as the greatest cardiology breakthrough since it was discovered that statins are able to reduce cholesterol levels.

Canakinumab has been involved in extensive trials that have shown it is able to decrease a patient's risk of suffering a second heart attack by as much as 15 per cent.

It was tested on 10,000 patients who have previously suffered a heart attack over a four-year period. They were required to receive a dose of the drug once every three months, with scientists noting that the reduction in risk of a subsequent heart attack was significantly greater than in patients taking statins alone.

Although some side effects have been identified, including a potential increase in the risk of infections among patients taking them, the British Heart Foundation still believes canakinumab has life-saving benefits.

Dr Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US commented: "In my lifetime, I've gotten to see three broad eras of preventative cardiology.

"In the first, we recognised the importance of diet, exercise and smoking cessation. In the second we saw the tremendous value of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins. Now, we're cracking the door open on the third era. This is very exciting."

Canakinumab was initially manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Novartis for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, but a presentation at the recent European Society of Cardiology meeting in Barcelona revealed its potential as a heart attack-preventing drug too.

The trial involved patients in 40 countries and could save hundreds if not thousands of people's lives across Europe each year.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, explained that canakinumab would be at its most effective at reducing heart attack risk when taken alongside statins intended to lower high cholesterol.

Written by Mathew Horton

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